Construction, carbon and climate criticism

Construction carbon Ellis Fox Blog

There’s no denying that construction is historically one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions as an industry. It’s a shaming statistic that the majority of leaders in construction and infrastructure development are well aware of. It’s also not something that can be solved overnight with a flick of a switch or a one size fits all solution – because there isn’t one.

In an effort to appease critics, many main contractors are publicizing their net zero efforts and still they’re being accused of greenwashing, told they could and should be doing more. It’s true, everyone could and should be doing more, but there isn’t the option to simply toss out the old and start with a brand new slate. Transition is much harder and slower, but that doesn’t mean no progress is being made.

Why the transition to net zero is so complex

Renewables – The infrastructure sector is acutely aware of the need to switch to renewable energy sources. Several trials are underway making use of green hydrogen, combinations of solar and wind, tidal energy and more. The challenge is not only to be able to generate enough reliable energy from renewables, but to also find effective ways to store and connect it to the grid so that power is available when needed.  Aging energy infrastructure isn’t always well suited to this so new storage and transport solutions need to be found. Already many pilot projects are generating promising results. It won’t be long before it becomes more mainstream.

Waste and resources – The UK has implemented many innovative approaches to reducing waste and recycling building site materials. There’s currently a big push to reduce demolitions and retrofit instead and this is largely driven by the need to reduce carbon impacts. Main contractors embracing this are proving that there is a business case for it, especially as materials prices continue to soar. A big part of this is the mindset change towards better resource management and understanding the whole carbon footprint of, for example: steel and cement.

Carbon recovery – Likely to play a bigger part in the future of net-zero and main contractors are achieving this in a number of ways. From site rehabilitation to investing in woodland areas, creating green urban spaces as part of developments to more advanced carbon capture mechanisms.

All of these initiatives take time and investment, but every small step in the right direction is progress.